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  CSPAN    Tonight From Washington    News/Business. News.  

    December 3, 2012
    8:30 - 11:00pm EST  

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>> according to a group of open government advocates, the obama administration's efforts and government transparency are mixed. the sunlight foundation held a forum on whether president obama lifted to his pledge to have the most open government in american history. this discussion is 90 minutes. >> good morning. welcome to the kayseri committee and transparency event on transparency in the obama presidency. i am daniel schuman with the sunlight foundation.
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welcome. there are many meanings of transparency. i'm not going to get into all of them today, but i'm sure there will be many different aspects. their widely divergent opinions on the successes of the obama administration and i hope to explore some of those today. president obama made a number of promises when he was running for president. a number are still available on change.gov. during the course of the administration, new issues came up. everything from campaign finance disclosure to dealing with the lawsuit and others on visitors logs. there's been a lot of changes during the course of the administration. what i hope we will talk about today is would've occurred or not occur during the last four years am looking forward to what will happen over the next. i am joined by three experts. i have on my right, anne weisberg. i have sent through the data transparency coalition and a former hill staffer. to my last is josh gerstein with
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"politico." there's more extensive biographies on your chairs. for those watching at home on transparencycaucus.org. with that i will go to remarks by panelists and we will start with anne. >> good afternoon, everybody. i look asian remarks on ethics and transparency issues. if i had to summarize how the obama administration has done, i would say that its efforts have been well intended, but not always well executed. i think they started out one into make a very strong statement. so one of the issues we had was a two-year lobbying via the administration put in place commended for two years after leaving you could not lobby on an issue for the agency you have left. now, one of the concerns i have with this effort is first of all i think it's closer in the basic premise that lobbying is evil and that is not a view i share.
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i think that lobbying, dubuque municipal state government places that wouldn't otherwise be heard to public-interest groups that speak on behalf of the public interest. beyond that, it is both underinclusive and overinclusive. it's overinclusive because it is based on whether or not you are registered lobbyists and that meant it swept and public interest groups. these are groups that don't lobby for money and they lobby based on their expertise on behalf of the public interest. they are also people we should want in the government because of their interests, because they have the expertise, because they look out for the public interest, yet are included in this ban. it is underinclusive because if you weren't a registered
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lobbyist. we had the perverse effect of causing people to deregistered because that is a single event that triggers the lobbying ban. it is very much controversy among lobbyists and the white house is trying to signal we need methods untrendy business. its effectiveness could have been more nuanced. in a similar vein, the white house relatively early on made a decision tuesday's close all white house was. again, they were trying to make a big, bold statement. i can, it has had mixed success. the fact that i was want to point out if they didn't do this on their own. they did it in litigation by my group to settle a lawsuit and they were in the midst of negotiating over obamacare and we wanted to know which health
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care lobbyists had visited the white house. going into court and having to lobby for not disclosing that information at that time would've been politically somewhat embarrassing for them. that said, they did it stopped this bold sweeping policy that the records online. has it worked? you can read more news articles based on his record. at the same time, we had more suggestions. recently everyone was focused on paul broadwell and her affair with david trias and the fact she bent to the white house a number of times. my understanding is some of them are not recorded and logged. so that suggest there is some gaps in the record. and then we had stories about white house staffers meeting at caribou coffee to avoid having records. i don't mean to sound negative. i am by no means now. to say what starts out as bold,
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dramatic gestures, the devil is somewhat in the details and they don't always work out to be a totally positive thing. we had some other things on a the transparency front. we had wonderful madness. i'm not in all sincerity. they came for the president and attorney general on the foia front. everyone in the access community was thrilled to see this is going to be such a high priority for the administration because i think you can't talk about ethics without talking about transparency because it's the light of public scrutiny that keeps people at the goal. and i think the implementation has been quite mixed. what i've come to appreciate is that is very slow to turn the ship state. it's very hard to change cultures and agencies in there clearly have been a culture of secrecy. i think we are starting to gradually see change, but it has
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been slow. unfortunately from my youth, the biggest offender is the department of justice, which itself continues to withhold a ladder theory significant documents, i will see opinions to name one. in litigation, we see the same position it always stayed. again, what started out as a big, bold initiative and implementation has been somewhat mixed. the big question that i have is how often our discretionary disclosures can be made. we have the direct to, which has been again a positive step. the white house administration saying to all the agencies, this is something you need to embrace. you need to make her wet disclosure data. i am sure hollister will talk
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about that. on the legislative front, we haven't seen a whole lot. we did see the disclosed acts get past. i'm sorry, it did not get passed. there has not been any effort on that front. the stock act to get past when it was undercut to some extent. one provision without it's very important would have barred members from getting pension. they were convicted of certain felonies and that was taken out. i think what legislation has come through has been watered down and we haven't seen that many comments any legislative initiatives from the white house. cert is nothing on the foia front but there is much room for improving the statute and the
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best evidence is the fact that every four years when an attorney general comes in, they are april to affect on the statute. the statute says disclosure is a matter of right. and that is what he said turning to you. let me close with the fact that i don't realize i've probably come across as quite negative and is it really my intent? i think it is the responsibility of groups like mine to be always constantly badgering the administration no matter who it is to do a better job. i think there have been important changes. the fact we have more and more dialogue about transparency is a very important and significant step. there is a long way to go and in the next four years, we will
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really get a sense of just how committed the administration has two goals announced at the beginning of his administration. >> host: thank you, anne weismann. >> this microphone works very well. and the executive director of the transparency coalition, which is the only trade association of for-profit companies focusing on what the government does with its own data. we have 11 and growing innovative tech companies with numbers that i data corp., are the committee member. roughly speaking, our coalition supports policies that result in the publication in standardization of government data. policies that align quite well
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with the government strategy and the stated direction of the obama administration. in our opinion, government data must be published and must be publishing an useful that means it has to be standardized, machine-readable and up until now, we haven't done a very good job with that. does someone have a phone? up until now we haven't done a good job with the publication. what is our view of what the obama administration has accomplished in his first four years? has the administration made strides towards publishing the government data? yes, absolutely. has the administration published the most valuable government data? now. the data from the core of government, the information that staff members at executive branch agencies reliant to make their decision has not been
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published. our coalition think says government in five categories. the transparency community we spend time categorizing beautiful policy categorization, so i won't spend too much time on this. broadly speaking the outside but it's usually talk about. spending, management and performance, regulation, legislation and judicial documents. in each case, certain data is at the core of government, the meat of what we are talking about. in the spending category, the questions are how much the government is spending, with the spending on contracts and what is spent internally? how dispatching reported the white house compared with transactions i reported to the treasury department in the area spanning, as many of you in this
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room know i'm a landmark legislation digital accountability and transparency act was proposed in june 2011. both sides of the hill by both parties and to be blunt, the obama white house has actively opposed the data act. the administration has testified against the legislation on homeland security and governmental affairs and they try to prevent congress from passing legislation that would require standardization of spending information. let's talk about the management category and performance, the second category. the most important data in the second category is why programs does the government have, how does their performance compared to past performance? in this area has been more progress. congress passed the results act modernization act. how is that for a mouth full,
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two years ago, which requires administration to come up with federal programs. as far as we all know, we'll have a published list of programs machine-readable that will allow us to electronically track performance. that's great. third category, regulation. this is a category where progress has been mixed. to be sure we have half a million data published unjaded.gov. many are machine-readable, but the most important information isn't published and has not moved towards getting it published. let's take for example a national regulatory information. as many of you know, the securities and exchange commission requires companies to file in a format for the first time financial statements are machine-readable, the sec has not moved to take any other information they require and that they put in a machine-readable format.
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the sec has 600 different forms and submission types. the tagging, although it's great, only applies to two out of the 600 forms. the administration hasn't taken steps to encourage agencies to adopt more tagging such as asking the sec to extend to everything else. those are the most important categories. out into judicial documents later on. i've got one suggestion for why this hasn't happened. publishing the most data is very hard. it requires a lot of people to change their jobs and frequently requires legislative action as we see with the data act. the administration has been reluctant to pursue legislation to get some things done. they've been reluctant to take the principles mentioned in the over government directive in the digital government strategy this past spring and translate those two real action and exercise the
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bully pulpit to make sure that happens. >> rate, thank you, hudson. josh. >> banks. i thought it would give a reporter's perspective on issues related to transparency and for me where the rubber meets the road specific stories where the fight to get more information, where the administration has substantial discretion to do more than it is currently doing a concert or discuss why is falling short in some of these areas. the first one is topical, which is a fiscal click discussions going on right now. you have meetings taking place with stakeholders, ceos, small-business leaders, what you call liberal interest groups and others. all those meetings have taken place behind closed doors. they didn't tell us it was
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there, but they wouldn't allow to see them. when members of congress came to talk about issues, the price was brought in for two minutes and shoot up before any substantive discussion took place if there was one. so who would think it should be any different? you can go back and look and find out one person who thinks they should be done differently as a fellow by the name of barack obama. if you go to mr. destiny campaign with background dealings or you look at what he said as the health care reform talks on legislation came to fruition in the beginning of 2010, he made a significant mistake by abandoning transparency and too much was done behind closed doors and going forward they would do things differently. seems to me we're forward and not doing things differently in connection with health care. i don't know whether promises are realistic or unrealistic, but it does seem we are somewhat
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short of the mark of what he promised. in the area of one other story i've been covering as a court-martial related proceedings for bradley manning accused of being a source for wikileaks. this interesting manner if it is somewhat like covering a court proceeding as one might have done in the early 1800s. that's the way strikes me. you can go up there and see what happens in the courtroom when things happen in the courtroom. beyond that, there is no transparency whatsoever. you can't get any documents related to the case. nothing but the evidence they talk about, legal filings, prosecution motions, judges rulings when she makes her when she reads rapid fire from the bench and good luck if you can't shut it all down because he won't be getting it anytime soon certainly. it is sort of a bizarre way of
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perceiving or anyone familiar with federal or state courts, where these things are routinely available. who would think at that kind of a preceding, maybe things could be done differently. in another context when the issue is military commissions taking place at guantÁnamo bay and what anne was saying to push the process forward the administration basically made a concession and set in this proceeding smiled and court-martial is, they would make the filings by the within a short period of time in a government website. they paid a fair amount of money to set that up and they now pose most violence within a reasonable period of time after they are filed. when a senior incumbent there's a transcript within 24 hours. for some reason the administration, despite saying they're committed to transparency was able to do that after some deliberation with
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respect to them many proceedings now underway, but with respect to a court-martial proceeding in the united states, where it is an american citizen or soldier to find themselves paralyzed and unable to provide any of the transparency. those are a couple examples of my disappointments in areas where the administration could've done more. yes me to mention national security. we have seen some interesting efforts by the frustration to discuss things related to drones and their targeted killing policy, the legal principles behind it. again, resistance to discuss the nitty-gritty. they will come out and say what they think we should know and it usually amounts to a few sentences at principles. to the extent you want to flesh out more than non-comedy on the info you look at this
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information they will leak when they see it in their interest. that's always a bit disappointing to those of us who would like to see these things debated in a more open fashion. there's my thought is a reporter off the bat. >> thank you very much. this gives us food for thought i did invite the white house to join this discussion as well, but unfortunately no one was able to attend. there are critiques they might be useful for a moment to channel the white house and if they were here, would you say they have actually done a good job on? there are some things like the initiative and direct dave, parts of the partnership, efforts around the first creation of chief information officers there are things that have gone
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well. it might be worth taking a look at that. josh, to want to to start there with tanks you have seen have gone better? >> sure. number one, big advance with the white house visitor log is a substantial thing. it seems to me in a lot of these areas, the way we will make progress towards more transparency is to institutionalize profits because when it is up to individuals for their discretion, i've grown pessimistic over the years that will make any progress. it seems to go against human nature. it will be hard for the next administration, whether it be republican or democrat to reverse the obama administration on the white house visitor logs and do something useful to reporters. is it perfect?
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there sometime seem to be on missions. does it take three months, which kills news value of more recent things. sometimes you can use the fact it will, eventually to get the white house to discuss things with you in something closer to real time. it is a fairly substantial contribution and i don't want to diminish it. i would like to know more about why they admit it, but his substantial data and it's over 2 million visits now over four years. is the one area is in the foia area, the administration has in some areas and that sometimes interpreted it more literally to release more information than the predecessor administrations would have
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i have seen them do that in some instances. they do take the identical decision in court. there have been more information forthcoming through the process. it just falls short of what open government advocates have it >> i agree with a lot of what josh said. i think that as i said before, just a willingness to tackle what are hard issues really is to be commended. if i compare to the previous administration, which i believe was the most secretive in modern times, there is no comparison in my view the open government directive is another thing. they are trying to
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institutionalize things. what i've come to appreciate is how difficult and challenging that is. when you do with government agencies and cultures existed there over a long time and the fact that the average person processes a foia request says i'm not going to get in trouble for what i don't disclose. it's what i do disclose to look at me in trouble. it's hard to fight against that and i give them a lot of credit for trying. so i don't mean to suggest it has been by any means a total failure. we have had some reasonably significant successes. as long as they remain committed to issues, we continue to have time to further entrenched some of these ideas of greater transparency. >> in the open data area, there's been progress. i point to the work of todd park, the new chief technology officer who made a name for themselves at the department of
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health and human services by posting hacker thongs for he would invite developers to take data and build apps and visualizations and business opportunities on that data. he has is the administration's chief technology up there continue that practice. treasury hosted the first such event on finance data bus friday although treasury required the administration to change the event to reconvening, which is much less threatening for those who are used to keeping data close instead of making data public. those events are allowed the office of science and technology policy to identify work apps are. you can discuss value in a
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couple different ways. primarily whether it is valuable to democracy and people holding the government accountable, or valuable to companies such as members of my coalition of want to use it for new business opportunities or both. our coalition focuses on both vote for democracy and business opportunities are still not disclosed or standardized. although there is incremental progress without a legislative agenda, i think the white house can't get there. >> this is good and that leads us to the causal part of the program of the convening, perhaps. so we were talking about institutionalization. we have seen efforts along those lines. the open government initiative and direct it, although it
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certainly hasn't -- it's translated into something to get agencies moving in the same direction. we saw more of the principle problem with the leadership is saying do this and agencies were saying no, no. it was the mid-level folks. some of this is perhaps a one point ethics czar. norm icing was the star -- i apologize, folks, with respect to this. it seemed like there was a change that happened when he became ambassador to the czech republic. mr. bauer didn't have transparency in its dna.
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there were different pieces of institutionalization and who is in control there. questions around agencies doing things. where are the barriers here? what is impeding progress from where i sit, they don't agree on everything, but they agree on a lot of things. what is it holding up progress here? anne, maybe you can go first. ..
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spotty. and even when it's not spotty they're ready areas of ambiguity. and they tend to take the most soda of aggressive bullish tight position that they don't have to open seven community meetings or telephone meetings or what have you. the president's jobs council had not met in more than six months, which is now, i think, 11 months and which was true because if
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you look you can see there has been no attorney meeting. they are meeting by telephone on a monthly basis and getting briefings from fairly significant government officials at the head of the national economic council of the treasury secretary or something along those lines. i feel the administration that was really committed to transparency would figure out a way to do those kinds of things in public as so many school committees and city councils around this country raced to do. and for this white house people seem to view it as an inconvenience and annoyance when you bring enough that they're not offering that level of transparency. so i think it is both the difficulty of wrestling agencies to the ground and some sort of lack of commitment at the top two the ideals of transparency, particularly when there is any political downside. one of your colleagues said in one of my stores a few months ago that as soon as you collide with something that has a political downside transparency
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goes by the wayside. that is essentially what i think has happened in many instances. the transparency folks can often carry the day when it is something that the mainstream press is not really interested in. the moment it gets into the spotlight, that values seems to slip pretty far down on the scale of what the white house said. >> ask you to follow pieces. one has to do with the administration has made new commitments, for example, they reaffirmed the commitments for the office of regulatory -- every communication lobbyists is supposed to disclose. a memo that directs this kind of behavior as well, but they are not doing it. you know, is it -- is it to say they need to do these things, a lack of political will or something else to make the second question is, press secretaries and folks in that role have a dual position. one is, of course, to have -- be
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the spokesperson. the other is to be a liaison to help get answers to questions. other press folks engaged of playing or at are they in a position where they can help answer questions? is it really more what we saw in the bush administration where there job really was being a brick wall and stopping everything? >> i think the answer is the job of press secretaries or deputy press secretaries and the white house press office in this administration is quite different than it was during the bush and ministration. generally speaking i think they are informed about the issues that they're talking to reporters about and can provide information, sometimes it will end up horrifying everyone on this panel, but they have some degree of context about what it is they are speaking about. in addition to and on the record, the can give you some background. might experience with the bush and restoration folks was the people at that front-line level did not have that affirmation
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and you would award not get a statement. two sentences command lever called you would not be in position to tell you anything about the policy because they did not know anything more about it. so i think that is an improvement in the eyes of most reporters, but if you are asking whether the press office or press secretary acts as an advocate for greater openness on behalf of reporters in terms of access to the president our access to meetings that take a bus of the white house, that has not been my experience in this administration. >> the second half of that question had to do with the regulation that themselves a promulgating regarding access to a wire records or with the foia directive. we have seen that the administration look, with a policy in be excited about it, but then when you talk to the people at the front lines they have no idea that there has been any change in what they're supposed to do. is there a communications gap? did people have a communication?
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de have a sense of what is happening? >> the way these things in the parking when they do work is through some sort of feedback loop where you have people who can take calls from people like in here and take complaints from reporters and others. this is not working. you need to fix it, and then those people have enough swap within the administration to reach down in the bureaucracy and make things change. that not -- that might not work in the case of great political significance where the president's top aides have to get involved, but the routine access that will be going upon websites. that is usually the feedback loop that produces positive change, and the loop seems to have either slow down or broken and lost 44 to 30 months. it probably has to do with the departure. some of it may have just been a lack of focus on what was the focus of the administration in the first 18 months. some of it may have been this
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acute year in advance of the election that some transparency initiative was going to put out some-affirmation that would cost the president the white house. hopefully that will have abated, but i think reporters are concerned that by the same token with the president having another four years there is no particular reason for him to be concerned about the complaint either from the press or transparency advocates about things that are not quite right within the administration i
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think you would find the same dynamic in the other areas where we want to see data published , such as the regulation to legislation performance and judicial documents. >> moving off of that a little bit. the previous question. replacing a lot of blame at the administration. the irresponsibility. a piece of it seems to be with congress. congress has an oversight role to make sure that these initiatives are functioning and that other initiatives should be taking them are started in seen through. at least is congress playing the
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appropriate role in making sure that these things happen? or is some sort of other dynamic emerging? maybe i will start, if you don't mind. >> i don't know that much about what the legislative front has in store appear. i think there have traditionally been some members of congress that have shown an interest in issues of transparency and foia and so forth. i don't think they ever done in because they thought it was a good political issue. we do occasionally see opportunists that will show up and suddenly have a keen issue. welcome, i guess, but it would be good to have them stick around for awhile. my other thinking about whether congress is responsible is, yes. i think they are responsible with one of the complaints, congressional negotiations with the white house should be more public than they are. takes two to tango. i have no doubt that if someone
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on the hill strenuously insisted that something be done publicly of the white house would not want to be in a position of having themselves look less transparent than the hill and would probably turn tail and reversed themselves. there is all this stuff that people could do to be transparent and we do frequently hear complaints from the white house will be asked the leaders why their meetings and not put on a public list. the stakeholder discussions they have had up until the public which is a fair enough. it is just that few of them campaign and the notion that there would be dramatically more transparent. >> one of the things that make congress often not a very tense -- how politicize things have
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become. we are here talking about transparency, i think if we were talking about transparency in congress i would have a far more bleak picture to pay than i am for the administration. but i will also save, and disappointment to me is i have not really seen legislative initiative, out of the administration, and on the foia front, we have some very powerful allies in congress, senator leahy and corn and to name to have been, you know, stedfast advocates for transparency in the foia for a great many years. and i actually blame in large part the department of justice for that. at the that institutionally they have not been in favor of any kind of legislative change to
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the florida -- foia that would allow greater transparency. you know, i think the white house has a very uneasy relationship with the department of justice. i think based on the spurious over the last administration whether criticism was that there were basically controlling the department of justice, this department -- this administration has tried to portray itself as fairly hands-off. you know, yes, i think congress to do more, but i also think the administration could do more in terms of legislation. >> and for folks interested in legislative transparency, actually, the previous advisory committee was on that topic. you can find a video of it that transparency caucus. so sam question. in terms of as congress playing its role in the way that it needs to? >> well, yes and no. from the open data perspective what is congress doing, what should it do? well, the government practice for reporting information and
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publishing information and formatting, it's like plumbing. nobody should really have to think about it, and when you do it is a problem. it makes sense that congress does not always pay attention to whether a regulatory agency is collecting paper or pds for x amount. honestly, it should not matter. the trouble is that at this point information that is public frequently is either not being published or being published but not in a format that makes a machine readable. congress needs to pay attention to that problem because it means that the plumbing is not working . in some of these areas congress has stepped up. champions of data transparency here on the house side that the oversight committee you join together despite it being a contentious session of congress and despite disagreeing and many other issues. they joined together to get the
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data act unanimously passed through the house. on the senate side senator mark warner, the democrat, and senator robb. >> reporter, republican what steve -- joins together a few months ago to reinvigorate the data act on the senate side. serb leaders in seeking the publication and standardization of government data in that spending category. the other four categories, we are seeing some leaders, just not as quite as high profile. our coalition is going to be pounding down doors in the 113th congress so hopefully get that. >> that is the question the plumbing is stopped up to extend the weather grows metaphor. >> let's continue with this metaphor. >> to do we need to call on to and stop it? and, you know, making it worse. i will change metaphors. in looking into a crystal ball,
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you know, what is likely to happen over the next year's as well as what needs to happen to make these famous move forward. >> i will try. again, i go back to the point that we need more legislation because we need to institutionalize it and we need to immunize a lot of these things from the winds of an incoming administration. this is an administration that is talking the talk about transparency in openness. it came after it the administration that was very open about its penchant for secrecy. these issues are too important for democracy to leave up to that. i think we do need test -- for example, we need legislation that institutionalizes the foreseeable harm standard in foia and that adds a balancing
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test for extension five so that the public interest it's weighed against governments of interest -- in just. i think -- i am hopeful that we will find support in congress. as i said to my think right now the last couple of years it has been very hard to go to congress and have any reasonable expectation of success because very little legislation has gone out of his car just -- congress. it has been a polarized congress. if we can get past maybe they will find a way to work together. if they do, i think then that i will be an avenue that a lot of us will try to pursue. as far as the administration, we need to continue to advocate for an effective person because i think without that we have a lot of disparate efforts going on. some agencies making great progress and others not, but they're needs to be, and it
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cannot just be issuing memos and directives. it needs to be involved in the implementation. >> before you finish up, one of the things that was mentioned in the 2008 was lobbying reform. there are -- i have a copy of it here. former and future employers. make white house communications public. a lot of things that have to do with promoting rules and procedures to record all oral and in person lobbying context between register lobbyists and so on and so forth. a report that came out last year or two years ago from the american bar association on lobbying reform. there seems to be significant agreement that there are a lot of folks who is engaged in lobbying who are simply not captured by the current regulations that exist. and this agreement is not just
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people on the left or people on the right to motorcross the spectrum. and we saw a sort of bold experimentation at the beginning of the obama administration with the stimulus lobbying administration on its own deciding to expand the way it was tracking this kind of information. >> but there was massive under compliance. >> yes. >> and that is just it. the problem. you can have a great policy. >> we are talking about looking into the crystal ball and on stopping the plumbing. is this an area that bears constructive attention? >> absolutely. we do need greater disclosure. disclosure and transparency is the key. transparency for money and politics.
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these areas that we need to push for. the administration made valiant tries to my but they're is a lot of steam on that. >> without question then is to be greater transparency. >> oftentimes to people talk about campaign finance. and you know, in as surgeon respect they are, but in many respects it is about how people and close the political system and weighs as proportionate, sometimes it is disproportionate influence. whether it is pushing on how people, what members of congress , shuffle the cards. >> and the word we have not even mentioned is earmarking. a moratorium. but i think what happened is that has gone underground. so instead of more transparency we have less, and that is part of that triangle.
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>> and there is an interesting point to that which my colleague would probably kill me if i did not mention which is that under the bush administration there was a regulation that required every time a member of congress communicated with folks about how money would be spent the administration folks were supposed to disclose that. the rule was still on the box, but, of course, there is no disclosure from the administration side of that, and you don't exactly here congress clamoring to say we're going to voluntarily disclose the communications that we make to the executive branch asking for money being allocated one way or another. so it would be very interesting to see. some of this is not solving the problems was simply making the old solutions work better. >> i think that is exactly right. i think that in some ways transparency is the lowest common denominator and should be one of the easiest things to
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achieve. yet it has been beyond our reach for a long time. >> so looking into the crystal ball as well as putting on your plumber at which is, again and -- >> it is difficult to put a crystal ball down the toilet. no one has ever tried. a fundamental contradiction here . os tipi is running back iphones, yet el in the is testifying against the data act. i think that contradiction has to be resolved either in favor of open data or against open data. and nothing bad will happen. that contradiction will be resolved. and the other areas where we believe the government should be publishing in standardizing more data, for democracy and for business models, there is not quite as clear a contradiction, but i think the resolution of this contradiction in the spending area will help all the various.
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>> the same mixed metaphor question. >> yes. i am to offer some of the reasons i talked about earlier, not terribly optimistic that a second term the price or transparency advocates are going to have great leverage over making the white house pay attention to things that they lost attention in during the first term. i do think there are limited areas where the technology or the process of institutionalizing some of the practices can drive the train test makes metaphors. i think, as we discussed before, once you have white house was a large swimming on a regular basis is hard to see them not coming out. some of the proposals about standardizing the handling of foia requests across multiple agencies and as a reporter the part of that i'm most excited about is the notion of putting on line all have to responses.
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this would just be in my view a paradigm shift in development in this era of big data and storage. i not see any technology reason why it cannot be done cheaply. it just has not happened. perhaps some of those advances are happening on a small-scale can build up momentum, even with a lack of much enthusiasm from the top levels of the administration. it will be difficult to prevent catching on at least some of the government. that is sort of these small-scale advance that i think is really possible to expect to see happening of this administration, the coming four years. >> that is great. and we have seen certainly in the united kingdom for example they have a functioning version of an foia model. what did they know. and it is fascinating how they are able easily make this information available in ways that were just barely working toward out. so where we are now in this conversation is we are going to open up to questions from the
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audience. before we do so there is one person always recognize who has a comment that she would like to make as well. as we're doing that we are getting a microphone ready and also something for the panelists to think about and the back of their hand is your starting to come to questions. where is the most innovative work being done currently? with that, are we ready with the mobile mike? okay. this going to sit in the front row year. if you could just introduce herself. >> sure. i work with the judicial arch. a senior investigator in the tourney. judicial watch is foia request for in the country to -- the most active foia requested. i guess looking ahead and looking back i would just urge people to not engage in
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revisionist history and to be honest about the facts as they passed. our experience with the white house visitor large was quite different. i am not sure if i understand, but may be normalized and was your boss previously and you had a relationship, but there was some previous relationship. the way we were in it when we see for those records, they were not voluntarily disclosed. we were invited to the white house said characterize it as a voluntary disclosure so that we could stop the lawsuit and not proceed to disclosure but compulsory action in the court. and it happened that we did not agree and we did not choose to go the route. said this champion of transparency had some back to our meeting with us, attempted to have a back door meeting with us so that it could go for that there were really transparent. what also wonders, if you are the boss and if you know that
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this guy is doing that kind of a job, why would you replace them? he may have left for his own reason. i understand that, but you replace him with someone who is equally transparent for better. so to the extent that the president had choices but to the places and what jobs, if i want to make sure that something does not get fixed and will hire someone who is not trying to fix it it may not have the wherewithal or whenever it is, the dna, so to speak. those are a few. there's a lot more to be said, but i think it is important. i think there was a lot of excitement enthusiasm with obama's promises. they may have been false or true from the inception, but if anything there is -- i have a lot of hope in the course because their patients with the obama administration obstructionist attitude has worn thin at this point. >> thank you for that. we are going to have other questions. >> let me just -- a couple of things to correct the record. first of all, never my boss.
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he did not have any substantive impact on the work that we did. and for those of you who don't know, we have been talking a fair amount about the white house as of the locks. there is ongoing litigation out over their status because the position of the white house remains that these are presidential records, not federal records and therefore they are not subject to the freedom of permission night. the case is now in the d.c. circuit. a lawsuit brought by the judicial watch. my organization and others have filed amicus briefs on behalf of judicial watch, and we are waiting to see what the courts say. and so while i tend to agree with josh that having made all these records available, it will be difficult for another president coming in to us suddenly taken offline. i still think the legal issue and aligning it is a very important. they're legal status, and i am hopeful that you when your lawsuit. i just wanted to add that.
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>> and all of us would agree it is much better to have a firm right to stand upon when you are challenging the administration than to the relying on the good graces to say, oh, yes. we will give you some of these records and not others. >> and i want to seconds something. my view is our head lawyer is also that the courts are the best place to be right now. i would not characterize the administration of what the course think of is so much as i just think waiting for congress is like waiting for. [indiscernible] the administration is a close second. you get in court and they have to rule. and those rules are not optional for an administration. so i agree that it is, perhaps, at the end of the day one of the more effective forms to be intimate change. >> one of the issues that is beyond the scope of our conversation here job but is important to mention is that congress has forgotten about its oversight powers. it has the ability to compel
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access to documents, told officials accountable, to use its power of the first to engage in its proper role as a coequal branch of government. this is something that the mob because of weaknesses in congress itself, the way it functions, the way it behaves, house some of its folks are elected, the way it is funded that we see really an erosion of congress as a capable branch of government. it is not good when you have someone with five years of experience and is now making a lot of money trying to oversee an agency or a component of an agency was someone who has been there for 30 years and has good expertise. so there really is an oversight capacity question that is beyond the scope of this conversation, but i think it is an important one to bring up. and with that, other questions from the audience? we have someone in the front row . >> good morning.
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i appreciate. [indiscernible] quite another angle and topic. my question is basically i would like to have to ask, the basic principles and, now, you can see that obama, how can he change anything if the always go out the country or on the road, a political campaign or to see who they can get familiar with. so those people eventually would be the supporter and bring the money in and try to get money out. and so the people, the general population, they have a complaint. nobody can be heard, even if they have a website, whether there are petitions that will be obstructed or the many you can put in. there is no real isn't, but who is responsible, who is willing
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to take responsibility to fix it. so the three branches, and all the issues. they will come up. you may want to touch -- you have i good legislation. but there is no real implementation. for instance, if you can get information, and the record, but the one you get folded in paper and there is no affirmation. door is not readable. so it's kind of fraudulent. >> okay. let me put your question to our panelists. >> right. my question is, if you can really go tab as citizen to have a complaint and for those complaint data and to analyze and push for from there. >> okay. i'm hearing a couple of questions. i'm going to focus on one of
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them which has to do with concerns about really those who have access to the president, those around, or the role of special interest in that as a really blocking policy initiatives because of the control or influence of the administration. and so do we see that there are special interests that are active in trying to prevent the type of transparency that we are talking about? actively trying to prevent these initiatives? >> sure. i think in the area did its transparency the need for the government to publish and standardize data, there is opposition so much as there is in difference. a matter of changing practices and changing minds, sometimes gradually. the questioner mentioned the basic principles of this administration in, and i think you can look back to the president's work and he was a senator defined with the basic principles are.
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he was chief co-sponsor along with senator coburn of the federal funding accountability and transparency act which resulted in the establishment of usa spending, the current spending transparency website. if you are looking at that action, then you would justly as soon that this president's basic principles when it comes to spending transparency are for the have permission to be published and for it to the machine readable. and so it would be natural for the administration to move to engage with congress on the day act. >> so there is a questionnaire all the way in the back. i am trying tech give your workout. >> my name is dennis mcdonald, information systems consultants. my question has to do with who is a responsibility is it to specify where the costs are going to be incurred and paid
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for in improving transparency? because many of the solutions we have been talking about do involve changes in process and changes in technology. some of them, you could argue, make promises less expensive, but others do involve an addition of cost to what individual agencies do. and in these days of restricted budgets, i would think that there is going to be a significant conflict between systems for improving transparency and not expanding money on systems for improving transparency. >> okay. >> i think that is exactly right , and that is a big problem. we also see that one director we have not mentioned that came out this year from the president and the white house having to do with the directive to agencies to get all of their institution
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of electronic records. this is the sort of thing that is going to make the business of government easier, the business of transparency, the foia process, but it takes money. these directors don't have any money that goes with them, and congress is not going to give them any money. i'll think it is realistic to think that there is any money coming in the short term or potentially the long term. i think obviously the answer for agencies have to look to rearrange our priorities and deal with what they already, but this is a problem. it is also a problem how we work our budget cycles that you are talking about longer term investment. invest as now that will yield results long term. agencies often are not allowed to think that way in terms of their budget. so, yak, this is that the elephant in the room. your the first one that brought it up, but is probably one of the biggest impediments that we'll face in terms of having more transparent government. where's the money going to come from. >> josh. >> i just want to say, i am not sure that in each and every
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instance the kind of changes people would like to see happen necessarily have to be terribly expensive. might experience with the foia process is in its current form and its paper form that is occupied for the last 20, 30 years it is exceedingly inefficient and constipated and it is routine for the government to reprocess documents over and over again, sometimes in a getaway from the point of view of request is, sometimes not. i would think that a sensibly organized program to try to standardize processing to run an agency or across several agencies could actually use some efficiencies that would save agencies' money or at least allow them to do what they are doing, you know, in a way that would be more effective. i appreciate that changing any new system in this day and age means buying some new of permission technology, but certainly things like putting up
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all existing foia requests that are processed on a website -- you know, i don't know how much it costs. it costs less today than it ever has in the past. i can tell you that for a certain date. some of those things agencies just need to try and see if they do in fact achieve some savings from. >> and i think there is also -- we have seen a couple of different aspects to this. the cost for the data mockup website is two or three or $4 million per year compared to high tea spending which is around $80 billion, so half of 1%, something like that. when you look at this savings for consolidation and the ability to identify failed programs, tied to spending programs are identified through the eye to spending dot go of sight, a couple of billion dollars. is that a real number?
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i don't know. but even if it is close within an order of magnitude in the case the there are significant savings to be had. we also see that the government is incredibly bad sharing information with itself. even after people sitting next to each other for 35 years and never share the data says that they have. the government would go and recreate this information again and again and again in different places. this is not to say that doing these things is not expensive. we don't necessarily know how much they are because of the way that government itself functions that does not mean we don't have the ability to stand outside and look back, but having that kind of perspective is helpful for serving the public, serving those inside government to have an assessment of where is the best bang for the buck and a separate peace which is, there is a fundamental principle of democracy that people need to understand what their government is doing, some things are going to be expensive. some of these changes will be expensive and may not be cost-effective in terms -- not
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cost-effective. may not save money by implementation, but they're is a need to have that information. the information by drone strikes available, i am sure it is tricky, but it is a useful conversation that we need to have as a democracy, making information about how certain aspects of government function. it can be more difficult when you bring more people into the room, but so long as the nature of our government is aware that it is a defamation sharing is something that really does need to take place. i don't know if you want to add to that price you said it better than i would have. i would say that regulatory reporting is a great example of the wasteful duplication you just mentioned. a majority of the data elements that are being reported today are already separately being reported to the securities and exchange commission and get those two agencies have entirely different disclosure regimes. some countries are much farther along than we are. australia, the netherlands,
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belgium, and the u.k. all have achieved some measure of the standardized regulatory reporting, standardized forms that allow them to consolidate the reporting requirements which saves money for the agencies and, of course, saves money for the companies that have to make filings. that is one of the best examples of what policy makers should be doing right now which is, of course, focusing on the open beta innovations that will save the most money. >> let me just add one thing which is that the foia module that a lot of us are placing a lot of hope on was extremely cost-effective. i think it only cost one or 2 million because it works on an existing platform of regulation. so i do think that is an example of how innovation does not have to cost a lot of money. >> so that gentleman and the front.
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>> dan from the huffington post. i was wondering if we could fish out the crystal ball one last time, but for yes, to look at yourselves and the transparency community in the journalism community, the spirits of the transparency community has been very much like other progressive groups. very excited, very high hopes for the obama administration. i myself rhodopes call the with the white house all about how the obama administration could embrace technology to open a real window into the goings on in the west wing and a policy is developed and all that stuff. obviously almost none of this happened. you know, these goals were not by any objective notion reached from the press secretary coming in on day one and treating the reporters just like his predecessor had, trying to fend off questions that were actually genuinely address and try to help explain was going on. from, you know, the a good date is still being, you know, and accessible.
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so obviously there were some friendly feelings toward these folks at first. still are. norman eisen was a great guy. but here obama, talking about obama having learned from the first four years and no longer negotiating before he goes. is there any thought that the community has learned here and enough -- that they are going to get past off because the crumbs are not enough anymore or are you guys just going to go for some more crumbs? >> i am not sure that all of the folks on this panel would represent the progressive community, but i think that we can open a. >> to you want to take that? >> speak on behalf of the progressive community. i don't think i can speak on behalf of the press corps. i guess i can speak on behalf of myself. i don't know, you know, what do you do if you are passed off, to use your phrase? i mean, you can write about these things to appoint them out , but to my you know, as i
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was saying, i am not terribly optimistic for the second four years because my view is not the only, but the primary leverage point that one has ever president is reelection, and once you move through that i think you're dealing with a more limited set of tools that reelection leverage point proved to be, i think, not terribly effective at keeping the administration moving toward some of its goals and transparency, so that is part of why i am pessimistic that what i view as a weaker set of tools will be any more effective at getting them to move forward. i do know that there is a lot of frustration on the part of the press corps and the are in constant effort to press for more access, but they're is a lot of doubt among reporters at this point that they are going to see in the forward progress. you have a president that clearly is joyce having his
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interactions with the press corps to replace a certain weight, which is primarily through sit-down interviews, reporters, and not through a daily exchange with reporters at the white house. and i see, again, no reason to think that he will suddenly change his stripes in a second term. so from a reporter perspective i am not sure what we can do to insist upon it other than point out when the administration is falling short of things, particularly of days that the president himself said that he would do differently. as i said about the health care reform legislation, it was not the reporter said to mike, you did not put it on c-span like you said you were going to during the campaign. reporters said that and members of the public said that to the president at town hall meetings and he said, you know, you're right. we should have done more of it that way and in the future we will. and then, you know, we see no change. >> i will take it as well.
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and i can speak for the progressive community. in my position i work with people from all political perspectives. part of what we do, of course, is have forums, these things, convening. we try to have this kind of discussion. we work with those who are willing to work with us. we try to parses are doing well. those are doing poorly, which are touched either in person to do better or draw attention to the fact that they're not doing with the need to be doing. we do this for all the different venues that we can, congress, lobbying those in the 80 branches. we try to use all different avenues to try to affect this kind of change. it is very hard. we build these broad coalitions. we try to be honest brokers where people, no matter where they sit on the political
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spectrum, if they care about these things they know that they can come to us and the people that we work with and get an honest perspective on what is going on, even if it is people and may have an ideological affinity or the opposite of whatever affinity is, i dislike. it is working the political system, and that is the best that i can give us an answer. >> more transparent. the government's. and the obama coburn building. does not matter what the ideology. are the forces for good government or progressive policies going to be more rambunctious? >> i think that tech industries certainly will be. i am glad you pointed that out about the progress of because i
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was going to point out that, yes, the omb watch endorsed the data act. didn't you? i am getting an example of a progressive group. grover norquist did. there is a bit of a broad consensus in favor of open data. i think what has to happen in the data areas that business has to get involved because politicians. [indiscernible] and at least in this area, the area that i work on, companies are realizing that was the government begins publishing information which is a voluble public resource that we build business models on it and it will not favor any particular competitive business intermission will be out there for the smallest developer and the largest silicon valley player to use to pursue their own businesses. >> let me just say, we never
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drink kool-aid. we have always been, i think, pretty aggressive about our views. we have been pretty critical. we were always pushing for more. so i think -- i know you will see more of that from us. we think that is our obligation and our responsibility. that said, we will work with allies while we have them. i have not really mentioned the national archives and records administration, but i have been extremely impressed with the new archivist to really is committed to record preservation, who gets it, who understands that we have to find a way to preserve e-mails and their importance and e-mails, to me, one of the most interesting things that i am after because that is where the smoking and is going to be. the office of judges has also been the office of government information services. another ally. they act as the ombudsman for
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full of foia, and they have been great at mediating a lot of foia disputes and they are fighting. they have a lot of resistance from the department of justice. we have worked to shore them up and to find them as many friends and supporters began. so i think it is like anything. you try to be strategic. look for friends and allies were you have them. continue to fight. so i make no apologies. i think we have been very unspoken and will continue to be very outspoken. >> i would just add to thing before we get to the next question. one is, i would be -- and remus is not even the right word, not mention the transparency carcass and members of the transparent secaucus to allow us to have spaces like this that work together in ways that are surprising to push legislation that sometimes is revolutionary
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and generally make a significant difference. in the way government functions, things that are slightly more such as understanding where the money goes, and things that are less like the office to congressionally mandated reports which is a terribly named a bill that has the basidia that all reports that come from the executive branch to congress be made available to the public. pending before the house. you know, no one is going test run for reelection. they won't even be able to pronounce it. >> try that again. and there are other bills like the bill on crs reports. i used to work is crs. persona non grata. something that is not sexy in any kind of we are there, but it does make -- it can make a significant difference. so one is, i would, of course, i don't mention the folks who are
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members of the coalition. the other is if you have suggestions, if there are ideas, if there are things that we can do better, differently than are more exciting. i can speak in more exciting tones of voice are different clothes. i'm not going to let myself on fire and run on the capitol steps because it is called a storm of year, but beyond that if there are things that we should be doing, we want to hear from our friends in the press and our friends and other organizations and we have engaged in the campaign's base to offer those folks who are engaging, that is a great place to put pressure on popes and as interesting questions. with that, are there other questions from the audience? if not, i have a closing one for our panelists. okay. we have answered all the questions about transparency but that is very exciting. i guess the final question, as we wrap up. who is doing the most innovative work in government?
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where is the real progress being made from what you are seeing? the you want to go first? >> sure. you know, i might pick up on something you mentioned a letter earlier. he did not say which governments. so i feel like i can do this. i follow mentions of the freedom of information act and the press and the english and the press, you mentioned england before. there seems to be a vitality in whenever they're doing with the freedom of affirmation act. i just find staggering. i don't know if it is the fact that it is a new-found experience for them or the volume of material that i see coming across in british news accounts based on their capital to process is a staggering. and most of the time for me personally federal government stuff from the united states, maybe not if you combine it with the operations of foia at the
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state and local level. so, you know, in this applies to estates i suppose we can look to examples outside our own borders. that is more i have seen pretty dramatic change. the other thing i would say is i think some of the technology advances are kind of a mixed bag. i don't want to take offense, but i have seen sometimes some of the loss of focus i feel on the white house part, and we have some actual indications of this, sometimes they get wrapped up and when i was ecology with aspects of collaborative governments and data it is closure and they lose focus on some of the other aspects of disclosure which would be a more interest to reporters and probably to groups like crew and judicial watch through foia. i think there is a happy medium that can be achieved there because i think some of the stuff being done in terms of technology is really exciting
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and dramatic, but the two things have to go hand in hand. there is no point in having a collaborative process where the cubs to the public can't contribute if they have no idea what's calling on. and similarly, knowing what is going on is of great value if you can't contribute to decision making. i think the administration found a little bit easier to progress on the technology front so they pushed a little bit more in that direction and more resistance on the -- some of the other aspects of their transparency policy in kind of let the slough off to the side. not end on a down note, but there is my inevitable pessimism picking a begin. >> point taken. you have to see this all holistic lead. of course, our specific focus from the data being published, but especially if it is off in the future somewhere, it should not be an excuse for not doing good government right now.
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and i think that is exactly what my example of innovation is doing. if you want to know who is doing the most forward looking work in open government data i would have a different answer for you in each of my five buckets. i will talk only about the defending bucket and there is no contest there. under the stimulus law compiled the first database of spending information that span all of the agencies as a result of the data searches that data makes possible, nearly $60 million of grants and contracts funds either recovered or never paid out in the first place. there is nobody else is able to point to results like that. again, i have a different answer for the other four, but i am not trying to take up too much time with this answer. suffice to say that the recovery board is going to be eliminated at the end of september 2013 unless we are able to pass legislation to extend it and build on innovations, and that is exactly what we're trying to
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do, and we hope that as a result of events like this one we can get that done. >> my nomination would be epa. it may not be the most inventive, but think the fact that they took the regulations platform and turned it into a portal is pro one of the more exciting things to come along. what this means is that for those agencies that are participating to my request is consummate the requests. one central online source will be ferreted out to the appropriate to see or agency component. easy to track the status of your question on line. and at the end of it all, the documents will be put in an online repository. so i think it shows enormous progress, and i also give them a great deal of credibility and credit because they did it in the face of a lot of opposition,
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particularly from the justice department, which i think felt very threatened by this effort, and they stuck with it and they have gotten some agencies to participate in the pilot program and there were a number of other agencies waiting in wing. [inaudible] >> seeing some innovation. even better when i turn on the microphone. we are seeing some innovation with respect to engaging the publican different times a ways. there is the we the people petition site which is not that exciting, but it is a little bit exciting. along the lines of more exciting would be, for example, what is happening in finland where you don't just simply petitioned the president from above or if you have enough petitions legislation is introduced to the effect of what your position for, but it is sort of nodding to a greater thing, the same thing with what is going on in
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foia. a lot more interesting with the my society group that was happening here. ..
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>> more information is available. [inaudible conversations] >> coming up tonight on c-span2 talks about efforts to keep al qaeda out of african nations.
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>> last month, china's communist party selected a new president, and other leaders for the country. tuesday, at the center for strategic and international studies, the assistant secretary of state for east asia will discuss china's leadership transition and how it might impact u.s.-china relations. on c-span 3 at 5:30 p.m. eastern. >> at the new york state museum. this is our gallery that is dedicated to the history of september 11th and the attacks in new york at the world trade center. we decided with the gallery, to tell the story for the first moments of the attack, using
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objects and photographs from the world trade center site. this piece of steel from the south tower, floors seven threw nine, we put it in the place where the public can touch it. gives the visitor a tangible experience. this is the piece of steel from the north tower, floors 71 through 74. this is the dramatically bent piece of steel. this is the site of impact on the north tower, and you can see the openings where the windows have been and the pieces of the metal that would have held aluminum on the front of the building. every piece of steel is marked so you know which building, which floor, which side of the building it's on. we researched that after we took in some steel. this one we found it was so close to impact, and because it had -- it actually has the chalk
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numbers, 71-74, from the time of construction. also has the number stamped inside the steel. >> this weekend, join booktv american history tv and c-span's local content vehicles as we look behind the scenes at the history and literary life of new york's capitol city, albany, saturday, at noon eastern on booktv and sunday at 5:00 p.m. on american history tv on c-span 3. >> monday, the outgoing commander of u.s. forces in africa said al al al qaeda's affiliate has established -- the situation is described as worrisome and says the u.s. agencies and international organizations are engaged in a process engaged in getting al qaeda out of the country.
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his remarks are 45 minutes. >> good morning. i would like to welcome everyone to george washington university. if i could ask everyone to please turn off their cell phones. as you can see, it's a crowded house. the purpose of this event, and all events, is to examine in some sort of depth the various national security challenges facing the united states, and in the case, not only the united states but also the african continent. when you look at the area of responsibility africom has, it's so-ing, in terms of complexity and geography. many of you are well aware, at least this informed audience, that counterterrorism is still an issue the united states needs to take seriously. i think for some, with respect to africa, came to light with the tragic events in ben georgia
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circumstance but as general ham well knows, this has been challenging the united states and others for quite some time. the terrorist threat has metastasized. ding-dong, the witch is not dead, referring to osama bin laden. you see threats move and gravitate to un and understood protected areas. obviously al qaeda some the islamic maghreb seems to be on the march. they're spread and the al qaeda arabian peninsula, operating out of yemen, and one of these more or less undergoverned spaces. lots of opportunity but lots of concern. whether it's narcostates in the south, to huge challenges we're
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seeing in morning maui, through to the southern -- the horn of africa, with respect so somalia. show to threat is still with and is so are some of the best people and most dedicated and devoted people address the threat. now i have the opportunity to introduce our chairman, who will in turn introduce general ham. chairman russ ramsey is a highly successful businessman and i don't think the university can ask for a better leader in terms of the trajectory george washington university is facing. so, mr. chairman, the floor is yours. thank you all for joining us. >> thank you, frank. good morning, everyone. on behalf of the entire board of trustees, it is my pleasure to welcome everyone to gw today and
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it's a particular pleasure to welcome general carter ham. as chairman of the board of trustees here i have had the pleasure and opportunities to engage with some of the nation's finest. today it is a real treat as our featured speaker is a skilled practicer and a respected leader in the field of counterterrorism. most of you will know that general ham is the commander of the u.s. africa command, one of the six unified geographic departments in the department of defense. what you may not know is that general ham is the only four star general currently serving in the army who started off as an enlisted enininfantry man. on my business, they talk about self-made entrepreneurs with great respect. i think we have one of the great self-made generals. general ham's service spans the nobody, including saudi aabe ya,
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qatar, macedonia and iraq. and what a career he has had. before taking the lead at u.s. africom, general ham was the commander of europe. mike his decorations, the defense superior medal. the legion ofmeter with two oak leaf clusters, the bronze star medal and the joint service commendation medal. it's a privilege to have general ham with us here today, and on behalf of everyone assembled i'd like to thank him for his service to the country. please join me in welcoming general ham the floor and thanking the homeland policy institute for convening this event. general ham. [applause]
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>> i think you can probably abbreviate that introduction and say, i'm a pretty old soldier who has around for a long while. but one of the things you didn't hear in the introduction is any experience in africa. in fact that puts me in the category of most who have served in the united states military, because africa has not been a part of the world in which we have focused a lot of attention. certainly not during the majority of my career. so, when i was asked by secretary gates to -- if was interested in taking on this responsibility, i replied, frankly, with a great deal of enthusiasm. not knowing quite what i was enthusiastic about, because, again, i hadn't thought a lot about africa, but i have found it to be an exhilarating place
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to serve, despite the many challenges, the complex and i diversity that we encounter across the continent. but it's been a great place to serve. so thank you very much for the opportunity to come speak with you here at george washington, a topic of which i've become fairly passionate over the past year and a half plus, since i had the opportunity to join this command. and as many of you know, i start in the command, got off to an unusual start with ten days after i joined the command that operations began -- combat operations ban in libya. that was a little surprising and caused me to remember a conversation i had with secretary gates a few days after i had joined the command, and we were at a meeting, and during one of the breaks, getting a cup of coffee, he saddled up to me
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and poked me and said, hey, carter, exercises, building relationships, strengthening partnerships. you're there less than a week and we're talking about dropping bombs on african countries. my answer was the only one it could be, thank you very much, mr. secretary, but it was a reminder of the dynamics that are at play in the african continence, ever changing, ever evolving. what i thought it might do is talk about who we are, what we are doing, and the current challenges we face, and then what i'm really interested in, frankly, is a discussion with you -- i hope it will be very much a discussion. as you know, we are one of six geographic commands formed officially achieving what is called full operational capable only on the 1st of october of 2008.
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so, compared with long-standing commanded, we're pretty new. our geographic responsibility entails the continent of africa, island nations, and importantly, egypt still falls under the u.s. military activities under u.s. central command but there's a little note in the plan that tells us how we do these things that says, for egypt's involvement in africa's security matter, then u.s. africom has responsibility for that. i have had several very productive meetings with the egypt schapp -- egyptian leaders, with regards to security of libya and other matters and the cairo basin. so we do engage with these. our mission is quite simple. it is to advance the national security interests of the united states in africa. and we think we do that best by
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strengthening the defense capabilitied of african nations so they're increasingly capable of providing not only for their own security but contributing to the regional security and stability as well. now, libya is an example. we also, the u.s. military command, must always be postured to implement the operational directives of the president and secretary of defense, but by and large we think our best efforts are when we are supporting and enabling african nations and african regional organizations to achieve their ends. our efforts are guided by two overarching principles and they're simple and not earth shattering to you. the first prim is simply a safe, stable, secure africas, is in the best interests not only of the african countries about of our country as well. and the second principle is one that was espoused by president obama in 2009, when he made a speech and talked about in the
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long run, it is africans who are best able and best postured to address african security challenges. that often gets confessed into the shorthand of african solutions to african problems. we firmly believe in this. i find it interesting that secretary clinton's last visit to the continent she expanded on that and said, yes, african solutions to african challenges but we need african solutions ss and participation in global challenges as well and that's a recognition of the evolving nature of things in africa. there are two documents that broadly guide what we do in africa, and those, i would commend -- probably most of you have probably read them. the first is the presidential policy directive for subsaharaan
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africa, and it is based on four pillars. the first, to promote opportunity and development. secondly. to spur economic growth, trade and investment. thirdly, to advance peace and security. and fourth, to strengthen democratic institutions. insurprisingly, we at u.s. a africa command focus on the third, building peace and security. but as a necessary precondition to achieving the other four objectives. so, again, i think it's best to think of us in, again, a supporting and enabling role. the second document that guide our principles as the defense strategic guidance which was released in january of this year, and it's an interesting document. it is in this document that is formally articulated in the so-called rebalance to the pacific. and as that document was made
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public, it caused some interesting discussions with our africa partners, both military and civilian, and, frankly, within the u.s. government as well. when you read that document, at least by my reading, i think the word africa appears one time. and so there's a concern -- there was a concern by africans, does that mean the ute -- the military is walking away and you no longer care about africa? and i said, well, we have to be realistic, in the geo strategic term, the focus on the pacific for a whole lot of reasons makes sense, but rather than focus on geographic priorities, take a look at the missions outlined in the defense strategic guides. look at the missions that the president and the secretary of defense say, these are the tasks which we expect the armed forces of the united states to accomplish. unsurprisingly, at the top of the list is countering violent
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extremist organizations. sadly, that's a necessary function for us in africa. but we do lots more. another priority is to maintain global access. certainly activities we engage in, in africa. importantly, in the term of building partner capacity, is an important function of what we do in africa. in fact is our main activity of strengthening the defense capabilities of african forces. we talk about the armed forces of the united states necessarily being postured and contribute to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, certainly something for which we are postured at african command and lastly, prevention and response to mass atrocities, sadly, a requirement that is necessary in africa. we believe that africa command
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remains very, very relevant and consistent with the defense strategic guides issued earlier this year. as mentioned, the number one priority is countering the growth of violent extremist organizations, and this is our highest priority at africa command, as the continuing challenge to be sure. whether it's addressing al-shabab and al qaeda affiliates in east africa, principally somalia, growing extremist network in libya across the region into northern mallly, and -- mali and then he regrowth of boko haram in nye jeer a, signaling the organizations. what i worry about anything, though, is rather than each of those individual organizations, while they are indeed dangerous
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and important, it is a growing linkage, a growing network and collaboration and synchronization amongst the violent extremist organizations which i think pose the greatest threat to regional stability, more broadly across africa, certainly into europe, and to the united states as well. and i suspect some of your questions will get to some of those details. there are lots of other challenges. the lords resistance army, and for those who know about the lords resistance army, it's a horrific organization. i've come -- the best way to characterize it, if you ever had any doubt as to whether there's really evil in this world, do a little research and see what joseph kony does. it will eliminate any doubt in your mind there's evil in this world and we have the ability to
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help the africans address the problem and we're very glad to do. so but all is not doom and gloom in africa. we have a tendency to focus on the bad things. that's our nature to focus on problems. but africa is also an exciting place to work, a place of great opportunity. risk to be sure. challenges, abundant. but as i was mentioning before this session, as i travel about the continent, i think i've been to 42 of the countries now in africa. i get recognition of the challenges and of the problems, and in some cases the severity of addressing those. but i also come away with a real sense of optimism, and with a little help, a little collaboration, a little synchronization, by regional organizations, the african union, by the u.n., e.u., united states and others, these problems can be dealt with. not going to be easy, but
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there's a recognition that there are in fact solutions to many of these problems, as hard as they may be. some are characterized this as the african century with fast economic growth in many places, changing dynamics across the continent. i tend to think of africa as, again, place of great opportunity and a great place for us to continue to make a difference. in my travels about i've learned a number of african probable verbs, one of which i think is particularly relevant. and it says, simply, if you want to go fast, go along. if you want to go far, go together. and we at u.s. africa command have chosen to go far and we've chosen to go in partnership with the africans as we seek to
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address our common problem. so, thank you, and with that i welcome your questions or commends. >> thank you, general. [applause] >> if it's okay, i'll -- there's a handful of questions and then open it up to the audience and thank you for that comprehensive backdrop. one point you raised which i think maybe of us worry about is when you're seeing conflict and synchronizeation of variation actors whether it's a al shack pa or al-shabab or mali. where do you see this going? can you confirm for us you have
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seen boca haram coordinating with other afillities? and then yaw have all the alicia rhea's popping up. like my kid say, would the real slim shady stand up. you're starting to see a convergence, and i think that gets lost upon people. historically you talk practical cooperation. now you're starting to see strategic cooperation, and i'd be curious -- start maybe with nigeria and boko haram and then maybe al-shabab, and try to get a sense of how we need to address these. we need networks to defeat networks, and that's frat africom is for. >> the common thread in all of this is ideology. so rather than focus -- it's very easy to focus on a particular organization or geographic region but the real
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challenge is, how do you address an ideology that is expanding and is gaining traction across a wider regions of africa. and i think -- again, the challenge is, how do you address the -- how collectively do you address the underlying issues that make that ideology attractive? and i think in that regard, the military, i would say, is an essential but nondecisive component of countering that ideology. it would be more successful when there's good governance, when there's economic development, when there's medical care, when there's hope and opportunity for people so that they foresee a better future and are not
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susceptible to a more extremist ideology which presently seems to be gaining traction. i think that's the real issue. it is this ideology that connects the various organizations. yes, indeed, we have seen clear indications of collaboration amongst the organizations, amongst the organizations. so, in one instance, boca haram in nigeria, we believe, and have seen reports, that boko haram is receiving financial support, probably training, probably some explosives can from al qaeda and the lands of the islamic maghreb, in a relationship that goes both ways. we believe it is likely that some members of boko haram have gone to training camps in the north of mali. we believe it is likely that,
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again, money and explosives, maybe weapons, have come from that region, into nigeria. so that is a worry condition. a number of ways to address that. starts with border security, better border security, and the nations in the regions understand that. we have seen recently a deployment of a sizable border reinforcement element to try to get better control over the traffic across the borders. but a point that was made earlier this morning, is -- i think for americans, most of us don't understand the size. just the enormity of the distances, and it's the size of the continental united states, and so people are thinking this is a simple problem. a couple of surveillance
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aircraft or a small number of african forces can bring this under control. this is exceedingly complex. >> well, general, i was delighted to hear you address the need to address the ideology. we have written many reports on that missing dimension of our present. to paraphrase bill clinton, we have to get to the point where we can address that, and in addition to the positives, i think we need to also go negative and the political campaigns exposed the hypocrisy. and the foreign fighter flows, are you seeing bigger numbers from the middle east and the arab world into, say, northern mali. >> northern mali is the tech challenge of the moment. the complete collapse of the malian government, so now there
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is no control in the northern two-thirds of the country, and i don't know how to describe it any way other than a safe haven for al qaeda in the lands of the islamic maghreb. islamic maghreb we believe is al qaeda's best financed affiliate, deriving their money from kidnap little for ransom, for involvement in the drug trade and other illicit trafficking, things so simple as fuel and tobacco and what have you. but they have a lot of money. now they have a lot of weapons. many of the -- again, for lack of a better term -- mercenaries mr. gadhafi fired to work in libya they decided they were not going to be paid or he was nose
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going to be around and they left libya and brought with them lots of weapons including heavy weapons and mostly came back into northern mali. they have a very well-financessed and now a very well-armed organization, operating in safe haven, and i suspect it's not unexpected to see the emergence of training camps and specific recruiting efforts we have seen individuals recruited from various parts of the world, across the mid-east, from subsaharaan africa, indication office recruiting efforts in europe as well, and there is an attraction there for those who are -- who succumb to this ideaol, northern mali is a pretty attractive place to come right now, and we're seeing that. it is indeed very, very worrisome. >> one of the things i think is
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worth underscoring is even in the u.k. you saw a number of nonsomali foreign fighters come to somali. so, you almost get the sense that they're going to come back with the street credit, and -- street cred, and that's a difficult thing. have the golden passport to travel. and your seeing conflict zones and they come back. and to me that's something to think about. one of the other questions i'd be curious -- you you have been very outspoken in a thoughtful way, even before you assumed command of u.s. africom, and if you think about it from smuggling is smuggling, is something i, whether it's drugs, weapons, peoples, you name it, and then you apply and ad -- add on to that tons of weapons, i think you're looking at a
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potential toxic blend. you treat this as court narcotics issue, counterterrorism? do we need to tweak things and counter narcotics and how do we start enabling -- ultimately it's to enable the men and indigenously to address the challenges. >> we have had a tendency, i think, to compartmentalize the threats that present themselves, typically to the united states, as a military threat or a criminal threat or other. and i think -- i'm encouraged by the growing recognition across the u.s. interagencies they're
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interconnected and blended, and necessitates a much more cooperative collaborative and sign crow niced effort across the whole of government. there are surely some impediments. some cultural and institutional. i think we're beating down those barriers more effectively each day. but some are in law, and in policy. and that requires us to, i think, again, take the so-called comprehensive approach. what i have come to understand better over the past year and a half, is the same network upon which the trafficking of illicit goods and people occur, are also the same networks that terrorists networks use to move people or money or weapons or ideas, and directions. so, the more that we can work
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collaboratively within the u.s. government and increasingly with host nation governments and regional organizations, to address those problems, the better off we shall be. i've come to better understand, for example, that the authorities that -- in the u.s. government, treasury and others have to monitor the networks and while they may not have a direct military link, the effect is the same. you're disrupting the network, and that's what we want to do. i see a coast guard partner here, and the department of homeland security and coast guard play a vital role in all of that. so there is more we can do. >> general, on boko haram, a bit
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of good work and analysis on this. where do you put on the likelihood, consequence scale for the homeland? do you see them as potentialabler? i think year starting to see them try to exert a more significant role among their brethren and ilk. do you see this as a threat today or tomorrow or what indication should we be looking for? >> i think you ask me today, boko haram presents imminent threat to the united states and the homeland? probably not. but in the mid-1990s, al qaeda didn't present an imminent threat to the united states homeland either. it is clear me that boko haram's leadership aspires to broader activities across the region.
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certainly to europe, and i think, again, as their name implies, anything that is western is a legitimate target in their eyes. so i think it's in our national interest to help the nigerians address this problem internally before it gets worse, and has -- the organization has an ability to further expand their efforts. i'll be in nigeria next week and look forward to discussions with them about what can we do? again, acknowledging there's not a military solution. certainly not an american military solution, but i believe also not a nigerian military solution of boko haram. nigerian military has a role to play but only as part of a broader strategy. >> with that i'm going to ask a bit of a provocative question and it's looking at the federallally administered tribal area in particular, and some
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lessons which tend to export and import ideas from one theater to the other. but think of the more times al qaeda, network and others are looking over their shoulders the lest time they're training, plotting, and execute attacks. we don't have that same equivalent. when you're looking at narrow geographic areas such as northern mali, do you think these tools, whether it's -- again, these are just tactics. people fall in love with drones as a form over warfare. it's a means to an end. but do you see these techniques, and procedures, having a role in africa at some point? maybe not -- but in the future? >> i think they already do. and i would point to somalia as
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a place where that kind of approach is perhaps a subject for the future. never precisely analogous, but the african union-led effort in somalia, support any international community, to include the united states, has enabled an african force to first increase leg protect soldiers mall liz; secondly, to be more aggressive in pushing al-shabab out from areas which they have long controlled and now mostly out of mogadishu. it's clear to me that al-shabab is largely in a survival mode. they're under pressure from uganda forces from mogadishu.
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kenyans forces from the southwest, and ethopian forces, and increasingly, partners with somali forces. that's a pretty good model. you're never going -- i'm not polly anish about this. i don't think we're ever going to completely eliminate al-shabab. not going to completely eliminate al shack -- al-shabab, but this concerted effort, africa led, international community supported, has afforded the somali people something they haven't had for 20 years, and that's hope. that's not insignificant. the challenge now is less military, the security environment is improving. it's now -- how doout yao get local governance in? get economic development so people have opportunities? just over the past year, if we
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had sat in this conference room a year ago and said, hey in december of 2013, sew mallways going to have a president, a constitution, parliament, al-shabab won't be in control of widespread areas across the country, we would all say, you're crazy. that's not going to happen, but that's exactly what did happen because the africans decided that's what they wanted to have happen. one little personal anecdote in that regard. i was afforded the great privilege, i believe, of last autumn, autumn of 2012 in a meeting in nairobi with the military chiefs of uganda and other countries. they had been directed by their heads of state, you guys figure out the military strategy to get -- defeat al-shabab in mogadishu first and then more broadly across the country.
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and they did just that. as you might suspect, wild disagreement how to do that. lots of different ideas of the right approach. ultimately they came to the conclusion and said, okay, this is what we're going to recommend back to our heads of state. it was a very, very powerful moment because i was very much a bystander. and they said here's what we need from you, and not surprising. continued financial support, logistic support, training and equipment with the united states through the department of states and intelligence sharing, but it was -- the key is, it was them. it was the african society, what they wanted to do, and saying, okay, if you can help us a little bit, that's a good thing. i think that construct might be
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the right construct for mali as well. >> think that's a great point. washington tends to focus on the stakes, and of course we always want to learn from our mistakes. often it's looking through rearview mirrors but we should also learn from our success and it's an important story and lesson there. one of the questions i would have is you feel the kenyans and ugandans have the backbone to continue should they witness -- what is their threshold? should al-shabab or domestic sympathetic extremists go after their -- do you think they've got the backbone? i mean -- i don't mean in a negative way but to continue to address and. >> ugap da has already been attacked by al-shabab, suffered casualties. the increasing al-shabab attempts inside kenya to
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undermine the kenyans so far have demonstrated a good capability to detect and disrupt those attacks, but i believe -- those will continue. there's no question. al-shabab will seek to undermine the public support. my sense, in talking with both military and civilian leaders in the true contributing countries, they're committed to this mission. they're committed not so much for altruistic reasons, although it is good to afford the somali people of their own choice, but they recognize this is for their own security as well. so, my sense is, this is a soldier talking about statesmanship, but all the indications i get is that they're committed to this mission. >> i might note george c. marshal sounding. i have two more quick questions.
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firstly, you had discussed the ideological components, and clearly if we looked back to the arab spring, winter, whatever we want to call it these days, social media played a critical role. played a critical role against regimes that were not that transparent, and plays a critical role from a terrorist privilege to facilitate recruitment. ...
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>> i am one that stands up for denial of service is both difficult to do and only had temporary effect. these are very sophisticated operators and they can move with great agility across cyberspace. so denial of service is a necessary tool, one that should be used in night you with great restraint and only when we think it will have an important and near immediate effect. i think that cyberspace is a contest of ideas.
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i think we've got good ideas. i think we've got winning ideas. i think most africans have winning ideas. and so, the competition in social media i think is an important one. the reality is we can trail at the two keep extremist organizations from operating on social media will never be successful. we are more successful when we encourage governments to be open to share their ideas and be accessible to the governed and to share their ideas and think of the long-term. that's more of a winning strategy that waccamaw each individual which is a message i don't like.
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[inaudible] >> denial of service for unlimited effects is an important tool. but it's not the tool to counter the adversaries use. >> a foreign terrorist organization to add to the complexity, we do have rags whether or not the provider should allow. >> fundamental for us as we follow the law. they don't, but we do and we don't change it. >> last question to take a little off topic for we open it it increasing concern about the government of iran and you increasingly see iranian influences in africa as well as china. there's two big juggernauts record to look out for national security and also national interest perspective going forward. what lessons ought we consider
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taking about in terms of chinese influence in the region is specifically, are you seeing in gannon, a rand is flexing some of its muscle. we are starting to see with proxies and elsewhere in the process. i'd be curious what your thinking is they are. anything on those other two points? >> on iran, iran's presence in africa is not due. they are there to a limited effect. the most grave concern is the transiting of weapons and technology principally, but not exclusively. so that certainly is an area of concern to us. china is completely different. china is everywhere and africa and certainly from my view, not in an adversarial relationship.
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economic competitors, there's lots of cheney's investment across the continent. i would say to oversimplify this, the chinese have chosen an investment in infrastructure. roads, bridges, airports, ministries of foreign affairs and the african union headquarters in football stadiums although for the economy. it's usually where i get fed up. what if you guys done? [inaudible] >> yet, soccer. so they say that cheney spoke a foot stadium. what has america done for us? i will admit in a pillowcase comment i was frustrated by that and say americans invent and how thick dignities and education and the fact that there are young people alive to watch football is largely because of the people of the united states.
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that's kind of her difference. we've chosen a path of investment, human capital. it pays off in the long term rather than the immediacy of a football stadium. we've seen over the past several years 30 plus% decline in hiv/aids. that's not exclusively in the united states feared where the largest contributor to the end is something we should be proud of. it's huge that people in africa have that.
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>> last weekon monday or senator
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kirsten gillibrand delivered testimony on the hill and told stories of families who lost children to hurricane cindy. those hit hardest by the film testified by the senate environment and public works committee. new york, new jersey, rhode island, maryland and delaware lawmakers talked about the impact in the ongoing recovery efforts. this is two hours and 30 minutes. >> we are here today to receive testimony from members of congress. representatives and senators to represent communities that were the most impacted by destruction left in the wake of superstrong sandy. many communities in the eastern half of our nation were devastated by sandy. countless homes destroyed more than 120 people lost their lives and as representatives of the people affect it, i know our witnesses today will give us clear and graphic testimony that we truly understand what extreme weather can do. certainly we know senators landrieu and vitter brought it
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home to us in katrina, that these events are happening more and more often and we have to focus on what it means to her people. many of our fellow citizens have a long road ahead to rebuild their lives and their communities. we have a duty to be by their site during this difficult time in the months to come. this year we'll create a record which has jurisdiction over flood control and other related issues. we'll explore how we can prevent or mitigate the incredible destruction and future extreme weather events as we take a the way we go. there's a photo we have from nasa and it illustrates why superstrong sandy is ranked as one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit our nation and how it caused such widespread destruction. stretching from maine to the colts take on the sandy brought a storm surge along the mid-atlantic coast northward including a surge to 11 feet and
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the long island. massive storms and sustained winds were 90 miles per hour with hurricane force wind approximately 75 miles to the center and tropical storm force winds extending outward approximately 485 miles. according to fema, superstrong sandy winscombe storm surges and flooding hit 12 states. more than 8 million people lost power. transportation systems in new york, philadelphia, boston and washington d.c. shut down and over 12,000 commercial flights were halted. communities up and down the coast are battered. federal government has a responsibility to help in the recovery effort. initial estimates from new york and new jersey alone of disaster assistance total more than $70 billion, a staggering number. sandy demonstrates clearly why
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it is so important to move forward with our bill. i've been working with senator vitter will become the new ranking and senator and all of my colleagues to make sure we can move forward an author is critical flood control infrastructure right now because we now have confused and working together is how we associate the core authoress to move forward. there is a new title in our draft work of legislation. we called extreme weather disaster mitigation, which will help us better prepared than reduce risk. whether those risks are in the northeast in louisiana or inland states or the west coast, they are everywhere. more frequent stream weather events happened as the climate continues to change. we have to build infrastructure needed to protect our people, communities and our economy.
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following superstrong sandy, governor cuomo stated part of learning is the recognition that climate change is reality, extreme weather is a reality and we are vulnerable. i wanted to state how it's a little bit of a different hearing this morning because we're really basically making a record. i don't know if he's on his way at this time. what we're going to do is hear from first of all our own colleagues on this committee who experience real problems from the storm. server going to give senator carper -- senator vitter, did you have to make an opening statement in lieu of senator inhofe? >> all be very brief, particularly since i may have to leave when the hearing is still proceeding, but i wanted to be here for two reasons.
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first of all, to express our strong support for all of the victims of sandy, for colleagues directly affect the end to commit to work with them on their clear and immediate needs. secondly, to hear what some of those nature need our besides the obvious pima recovery effort, which is ongoing, particularly the flood and storm protection needs. third, and begin to explore together ways we can expedite the process after katrina because katrina was so vague we expedited a lot of core requirements, both through congressional action in executive order and it absolutely made a critical difference and there was no negative environmental impact that has been noted are
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documented in many ways. we need to learn that lesson for sandy. we need to learn the lesson more broadly and see how we can reasonably expedite import in action an ongoing basis and i look forward to working with all my colleagues on that. >> senator, as you know we have this new section of our bill but as to what exactly got them were working with yourself because you're right, we cannot have a halt to fixing our problems when there's 10 different laws they have to comply with. we need to streamline that appeared gear from senator carper for 10 minutes, senator lautenberg says he is here for 10 minutes from senator cardin for 10 minutes, senator white house or 10 minutes, senator gillibrand for 10 minutes. our committee clearly had so many members had felt the impact of the storm. so let's start with you, senator carper. >> bottomed chair, thank you do
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you and colleagues and to members of our staff for holding this hearing this morning and for giving us an opportunity to share with all of you some of what we've been through. massive impacts of hurricanes and he continued to be felt by many people up and down the east coast. the images of destruction have been a heartbreaking, and other states to the north of us. as they traveled through delaware, during the storm and after the storm i've seen that aftermath. i also saw people from all walks of life helping one another and taking care of one another, their neighbors. i'm grateful for the opportunity to share some of what i've seen since hurricane sandy. perhaps most importantly, this hearing will help congress